We all knew it was coming. A medium as rife with ethnic stereotypes as reality television was bound to, one day, find a few spunky young Jewish women and present them to the world as JAPs. Well, that day has come. Bravo recently debuted their new reality show “Princesses: Long Island” which is about, in the network’s words, “six young women from Long Island who return to their pampered lifestyles in the comfort of their parents’ estates and at the expense of their fathers’ bank accounts. This new docu-series offers a window into their unique family dynamics and personal lives filled with labels, luxury, and love trials.” This week on the Sisterhood we will be exploring the new show and what it does and doesn’t say about Jewish women today.
“Everybody has a stereotype of a Long Island Jewish girl. They get so offended! I’m, like, ‘Bring it.’ I’m Jewish, I’m American, and I’m a princess.” Ashlee from “Princesses: Long Island”
As a reality TV junkie, I’m always on the hunt for my next fix. Most great reality shows are only great for one season, before participants buy into their own hype and start hiring publicists. The first season of “Jersey Shore,” before the catchphrases and the endorsement deals, was one of the best and funniest reality shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been searching for a replacement ever since.
“Princesses: Long Island,” the new Bravo reality show about six (mostly) spoiled Jewish women who still live at home and are trying to find husbands, has finally filled that gap. However, like many other reality shows, “Princesses” has encountered plenty of controversy. Before the first episode had even aired, several Jewish groups were calling for a boycott. On The Huffington Post, Lindsay Orlofsky wrote a post entitled “Shame On Bravo,” where she criticized the women on the show and their characterizations of their own Jewish identities.
“The women on this show depict a disgracefully false representation of Jews, a shameful representation of women, and a humiliating representation of Long Islanders,” Orlofsky wrote. “As a Jewish woman from New York, I could not be more appalled with the Bravo network’s decision to air this train wreck of a show, and the cast members’ decisions to fuel this stereotypical fire.”
Orlofsky’s post reads like a mad lib. Every time a new reality show hits the air, members of the community depicted by the show write nearly-identical screeds. I can understand the concern coming from Orlofsky and people like her – some of the women on Princesses are like the embarrassing family member who you hope doesn’t make a scene at your wedding. But expecting something as banal as a reality show to be all things to all people, or asking a TV network that exists to sell advertisements to be a moral arbiter for an entire society, is ridiculous.
We live in a world where there is more media than ever before. There are hundreds of TV channels and hundreds of thousands of blogs and websites. Yet Orlofsky seems to think that one single TV show, one drop of a water in a tremendous ocean, is going to ruin an entire community. Anti-Semitism existed long before reality TV ever did, and it will probably continue existing when reality TV is a relic of history. The kind of person who bases their entire opinion of the Jewish community on a couple of heavily edited characters on a reality show is the kind of person who wouldn’t have a very informed opinion on Jews to begin with. Italian-Americans survived Jersey Shore. African-Americans survived The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Vapid pharmaceutical sales reps survived The Bachelor. We’re going to be just fine. Bring on season two!